George: 'Just letting the game come to me'


George: 'Just letting the game come to me'

BOSTON Even before the Indiana Pacers learned they would be without Danny Granger for a while, Paul George had his mind made up that he would be "the next big thing" this season.

But the pressure to perform that George was putting on himself coupled with Granger's absence, threw the 6-foot-8 wing in a bit of a funk to start the season.

"Early on, I was trying to force it so much to where now it's coming to me, playing through the team and just building habits preparing for games," George told "So now I'm just letting the game come to me which is different from the beginning of the year."

And that difference has been huge for both George and the Pacers who come into tonight's game against the Boston Celtics having won eight of their last 10 games.

"The last month or so, he's playing at an all-star level," said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. "All year he has been one of the best defensive wings in the NBA, and on the offensive end he has really picked up his assertiveness and shot-making."

George's success stems from his versatility that poses matchup problems on a nightly basis.

With his size and length, most shooting guards are too small to guard him while small forwards don't have his level of athleticism or ball-handling skills.

Add it all up and it's clear to see why the absence of Granger hasn't been nearly as painful as the loss of a leading scorer would be to a lot of teams.

"He opens up the floor a lot and gives us a lot of different looks that we can do," said Pacers guard George Hill. "He's something like Danny Granger, but a lot more athletic. So when we do that, it gives us a great opportunity to spread the floor and do multiple things."

Earlier this season, George was named the Eastern Conference player of the week of Dec. 10-16. During that span, the Pacers were 3-0 while George averaged 23.3 points, 7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks in addition to connecting on 47.4 percent of his 3s during that span.

Every breakout season tends to have a turning point of some sort.

For George, that would have been Indiana's loss at Golden State on Dec. 1 when he was scoreless while missing all seven of his shots from the field.

After that, George made it up in his mind that whatever he had been doing on the day of games to prepare, had to be changed.

So for their next game against Chicago, George lifted weights the day of the game in addition to getting up 500 shots before hand.

Indiana won 86-80 and George had a then-season high 34 points. That was followed by a 22-point, 8-rebound game which was followed by a 22-point, 6-rebound, 6-assist night.

George said he rarely lifted on game days and didn't take anything close to 500 shots leading up to tip-off.

"I had this thought in my mind that lifting on game days would make me tired or something," George said. "But I tried it out and I actually felt I was ready; my body just felt great. It wasn't a strain on my body at all."

And as far as the 500 shots, George said, "I never shot 500 shots. I thought that would have gotten me tired as well, shooting 500 shots before a game. But my body just felt relaxed. and when I got on the court, it felt I took those shots so many times that if I shot that shot, it was going to go in."

Having had success at both ends of the floor this season has only fueled George's confidence.

"That's how the all-star's make their mark; being confident and being a floor leader on the floor," George said. "That comes with the territory. You have to make the plays, make the baskets. if you're not ready to make the baskets, you really don't have the confidence to even be on the floor. Confidence goes with everything when you want to be the guy."

And there's little doubt that George believes he is indeed capable of being a go-to player.

But he respects what Granger has done for the franchise, and knows that things will change once Granger, an all-star, returns to the lineup.

"It's in the back of my mind," George admitted. "He's an all-star player and it's really ... I have to keep the mindset the same but know that it's another all-star back in our lineup. I think we'll be able to play great together."

George added, "I think we'll be able to coincide. I got the confidence now to make plays and I think it'll help Danny out. You don't want to help off Danny because he can shoot the ball so well. If my shot attempts and my scoring aren't up, my assists will be up."

And that will bring him even closer to being a first-time all-star at next month's All-Star game in Houston.

George isn't quite ready to announce himself as being on that level just yet.

"Be honest, I only played one good month," he said. "So I still got some time. I think if I continue on this path, I'm playing at an all-star level."

Felger: Broncos’ Elway and Kubiak the only NFL braintrust close to the Patriots


Felger: Broncos’ Elway and Kubiak the only NFL braintrust close to the Patriots

Before I make the following point, I'd like to make one thing clear to my sensitive readers: I do not believe the Denver Broncos are better than Patriots. I do not believe they have “passed'' the Pats. Please, Patriots fans, when New England goes into Denver and wins on Dec. 18 and/or the Pats beat them again in the playoffs, save your emails and calls. Don't get your panties in a bunch. You're still the best.

However, as we assess the pathetic state of brainpower across the NFL, the Broncos are one of only a few teams that deserve mention alongside the Pats. Perhaps they're the only one.  As their recent handling of their quarterback situation shows, especially from a coaching standpoint, Gary Kubiak and John Elway have proven they know what they're doing -- and how many teams in the league can you say that about?

In Denver, Brock Osweiler actually looked like a quarterback with a future. In Houston, he barely looks like he belongs in the league. That's about coaching, scheme and culture. It seems that somewhere between the silly letterman jackets in Houston and his second crack in Denver, Kubiak got a clue. Last year, he managed Osweiler to a 5-2 record before sitting him and somehow winning a Super Bowl behind the noodle-armed Peyton Manning. This year, he has another marginal talent, Trevor Siemian, off to a 5-1 start in his first season under center.

There are many NFL coaches who didn't hit their stride until their second job, and you have to wonder if Kubiak falls in this camp. I actually saw him put down his playsheet with his offense on the field the other night and thought, maybe he's starting to get it. He looked more like a head coach and just a little less like an offensive coordinator. 

Either way, Kubiak has displayed an excellent touch with a string of mediocre quarterbacks. And from the original decision to shut down Manning, to the insertion of Osweiler, to the reinstatement of Manning, and then the ultimate handing of the job to Siemian, he and Elway have pushed all the right buttons. If Paxton Lynch turns into a player down the road, look out.

Of course, Kubiak hasn't had much to do with his defense, which has been the domain of Elway, the architect, and to a lesser extent, Wade Phillips, the coordinator. Elway remains one of the few executives to build a championship team largely through free agency, and some of his moves have been so cold-hearted, so debated at the time, that only Bill Belichick could relate.

Who else fires a coach who led you to four division titles and a Super Bowl berth (John Fox), and then follows that up with a title? Who else lets go of BOTH quarterbacks who led you to a title and follows that up with a division lead?

It's moves like those that led ESPN to display a stat montage late in the game on Monday depicting Elway as ``the Don.'' (Wonder where they got that idea from?). Think about it.  Who else in the league -- what coach, executive or owner -- gets that kind of ``mastermind'' treatment? I don't think anyone else deserves it other than Belichick and, in second place, Elway. Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore would be a distant third; or perhaps Pete Carroll and John Schneider in Seattle deserve mention.

Regardless, as the ESPN graphic showed, the Broncos' record since Elway took over in 2011 is now 63-24, second in the league over that time only to the Pats (67-20). Denver is also one of just four teams to make the playoffs every year during his tenure (the Packers, Pats and Bengals are the others). Like the Pats and Seahawks, he's been to two Super Bowls and won one. And like the Pats, he has won his division five straight years.  

Perhaps that all comes to an end this year, and it sure looks like Denver will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to earning home field over the Pats come December. But for now, in a league where there are no equals to Belichick, it's almost refreshing (to me, anyway) to consider someone who at least belongs in the conversation. 

Email Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN New England.


Belichick: A lot of teams around the league are 'kind of reluctant to trade'


Belichick: A lot of teams around the league are 'kind of reluctant to trade'

FOXBORO -- It's not easy to pull off trades in the NFL around the deadline. Just look at how many are completed in the final days leading up to the deadline every year. Yet the Patriots have worked two already, and they have until Nov. 1 at 4 p.m. to execute another.

One of the trades they pushed through earlier this week saw them send a sixth-round pick to the Lions in exchange for a seventh-rounder and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. What helped that deal cross the finish line was the relationship between the front offices in Detroit and New England. 

Lions general manager Bob Quinn spent the majority of his professional career working for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, serving most recently as Belichick's director of pro scouting until being named to his current position in Detroit. 

Belichick acknowledged on Wednesday that there are times when having a long-standing relationship with someone can help a trade get done.

"I mean it could, yeah," Belichick said. "I mean, you know, there are a lot of teams that don’t . . . they seem kind of reluctant to trade -- this time of year, especially. But it’s one of those things that came up fairly quickly and just worked out. It wasn’t something we had talked about or anything like that previously. As I said, it kind of came up so we were able to work it out.

"Look, Bob's great to work with. But we made another trade with another team in our conference so if it’s there to be made, it’s there to be made. If it’s not, it’s not."

That other trade saw the Patriots send tight end AJ Derby to AFC rival Denver in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Belichick doesn't seem to care much about who he's trading with -- "We’re trying to make our team better," he said, "that’s what we’re trying to do" -- but because of the league's reluctance to deal, it seems that if the Patriots are looking for help at tight end, along their offensive line, or at pass-rusher, they may be more likely to find it by calling old friends in Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Houston or Atlanta, where former Belichick protegees are now employed.